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North Sails NEWS

March 15, 2019

STAR CLASS LEADER ERIC DOYLE

After Three Decades, Eric Keeps Coming Back To The Star

© Bronny Daniels

Even after almost three decades in the class, 2019 Bacardi Cup champion Eric Doyle thinks there’s still plenty left to figure out. “It’s the best platform for learning about sail shape and rig tune,” he says. “There’s quite a bit of pumping and kinetics involved. And there’s a bit of keeping the rig upright as well.” Combined, those challenges have kept him in the Star boat—and, between regattas, doing long bike rides to improve fitness and focus.

Eric started sailing as a kid on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, “Because it was so bloody hot you kind of had to be on the water in order to survive.” During college in Mobile, Alabama, he sailed Stars for the first time with the local fleet. “When I got out of college and was done racing small boats, I thought that the Star was just the coolest thing ever and started racing them.”

“When I got out of college and was done racing small boats, I thought that the Star was just the coolest thing ever and started racing them.”

That led to an Olympic campaign ahead of the 1992 Games, and that in turn led to an important phone call.“Vince Brun called me and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come work for North Sails in San Diego, there’s a great Star fleet out here. I think it’ll help your career.’ So I packed up, pulled my Star boat out here, and started working for him.” In 1999, Eric won the Star World Championship and his first Gold Star. “129 boat fleet, that was a highlight for sure.” More recently, he and crew Payson Infelise won the 2018 North Americans. “We’re feeling pretty strong right now. So, hopefully we can continue rolling along.”

© Bronny Daniels

Since first starting at North in 1992, Eric has done some big boat sailing as well, including an America’s Cup campaign with Dennis Conner and two with Oracle. But in 2017 the opportunity came to return to the Star—and to San Diego. Now, as Class Leader for North Sails, he’s brought his Cup experience back to help improve one design sails. “It’s taken me two years to get the sails where they are now. We have made some nice improvements.” For 2019, North is offering a completely new Star product line.

As class leader, Eric is responsible for identifying the improvements he wants to make and communicating them to the design team. Then he tests the sails with a tuning partner to quantify if the changes worked. “We did quite a bit in the lead up to the 2018 North Americans,” he says. “And it all turned out pretty good. We were much faster in lighter air.” (For more about the process and results, read Star Sail Design R&D)

Eric’s plans for 2019 include two regattas in Europe: the Star Europeans on Lake Garda, and the Worlds in Porto Cervo. “We’re going to try and do those, and hopefully have a good result. And keep on in the fall after that.” Because even after thirty years in the Star, Eric knows there’s still plenty left to learn.

© Bronny Daniels